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Fiction and reality | The threat of nuclear fire

Contrary to the previous posts in this section, today we will deal with a threat that has not materialized, and fortunately, because if it had, I would not be here to write these lines and you to read them. Nevertheless, this threat, the worst of all, is in all of our minds today, with the war declared by Russia on Ukraine, which makes us fear a possible spiral with the NATO countries, which everyone wishes to avoid.

Considered as absolutely impossible and inconceivable by most until a few days ago, this threat has come back brutally to mark our minds following the threats made by the Russian president towards any country that would stand in his way in the war with Ukraine.

I wished to denounce this scenario by putting it into images on several occasions, especially in the two books "Resilience" and "HOPES". The latter dedicates several pages and visuals to it and also addresses other threats related to the possible drifts of this war such as the bombing of civilian nuclear facilities which will be the subject of another article.

Let's not forget that in the past we have been on the verge of the abyss several times - for example, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, which stunned the whole world in 1962. In a world as dangerous as ours, it is now more than ever time to take a global step backwards by eliminating the most dangerous weapons, starting with chemical, bacteriological and, of course, nuclear weapons. This is what my friends at ICAN are working on, and they received the Nobel Peace Prize for their commitment a few years ago. The current conflict reminds us of this urgency. In contrast to the policies of rearmament that we know everywhere following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is more than necessary to continue to work in this direction by calling on all parties to reason. France, which has tried to act as a mediator since the beginning of the crisis, could perfectly well take such an initiative, even if in the present moment, the immediate threat that Russia represents for the stability of the world tends to increase the defense budgets everywhere in the world. In Hopes, I wanted Setsuko Thurlow to testify, one of the few people who can testify to the horror of nuclear weapons, and I am transcribing here a few sentences taken from the book and from our exchange:

As a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl, I saw my hometown, Hiroshima, blinded by the flash, flattened by a hurricane-like explosion, scorched by 4,000 degree Celsius heat, and contaminated by the radiation of an atomic bomb. A bright summer morning turned into a dark twilight with smoke and debris rising in the mushroom cloud. I saw a mass of grotesque, ghostly figures - bleeding, burned, blackened and swollen, skin and flesh hanging from their bones. My beloved Hiroshima disappeared from the face of the earth, with about 300,000 men, women, and children killed instantly by the bomb, and over time by the lingering effects of radiation - which has continued to claim lives for over seven decades!

Setsuko Thurlow, HOPES, Symbiom editions 2021

Survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing

Speaker for ICAN at the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize reception

Recall that since July 7, 2017 was adopted a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons (TIAN), ratified by 44 of the member states of the United Nations, strengthening Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Each signatory country committed to prohibit the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and, of course, use of nuclear weapons. Other states have since added their signatures to this treaty: On January 22, 2021, a year ago, a 50th signatory state brought it into force. The countries holding nuclear weapons are now officially outlawed. The treaty also provides for the nuclear-armed countries that adhere to it a process of exit through the elimination of its weapons, but also a verification of their destruction and the irreversibility of the abandonment of their nuclear program.

To those who use tactical arguments to justify the continuation of nuclear programs, I quote the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Strategic Forces:

To set up nuclear weapons as the ultimate arbiter of conflict condemns the world to live under the shadow of a black cloud of perpetual anguish. Worse, it validates humanity's most murderous instincts by making it an acceptable recourse when other methods of conflict resolution fail.

George Lee Butler

Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic

Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Strategic Armed Forces from 1992 to 1994

A statement shared by many other military personnel, such as Bernard Norlain, also a contributor to Hopes: Since Hiroshima, humanity has lived under the threat of one or more nuclear explosions. Tens, hundreds of millions of human beings are unknowingly held hostage in a deadly race for power. The planet itself is threatened with destruction. Whether caused by nuclear conflict, accident or misinterpretation, nuclear explosions would have devastating consequences for humanity and its environment. Yet there are still thousands of nuclear weapons in the world. These weapons, by their very existence and by the possibility of their use, constitute a considerable risk at any time. Moreover, they are currently undergoing development and modernization programs that make them more lethal and more likely to be used. Since the creation of this weapon of terror, many voices have been raised to denounce this dance on the brink. Today, these voices are growing louder and louder to demand the abandonment of this gamble on the death of entire populations and to call for general nuclear disarmament. A Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty is being ratified by the United Nations General Assembly. This treaty is a first sign. It shows the way, because not only is the abandonment of nuclear weapons possible, it is indispensable. Bernard Norlain, HOPES, Y. Monget Symbiom, 2021

Caption: Among the scenarios depicted in the book HOPES, this digital painting shows the wreckage of a nuclear submarine that launched its warheads on a devastated Earth, where most life forms would have been exterminated. Art and foresight are among the best weapons to encourage reflection and to communicate on the threats and risks incurred... precisely to avoid that these catastrophes occur one day. In any case, this is the bias taken in this photodocumentary book, which, on the contrary, also presents possible futures where humanity will have shown wisdom to reinvent the world. Excellent films like "The Last Shore" would probably deserve to be shown to all the aficionados of the atom to show them where this technology could lead us, in a world prey to the irresponsibility and blindness of many.

I will also complete my critical remarks towards the atomic weapon with this story that unfortunately few people know and that I published the day of Stanislav Petrov's death (story also told in HOPES):

Stanislav Petrov, many of you do not know his name, although it should be taught in every history class. For without him, none of you would probably be alive today. This man, to whom we all owe our lives, prevented nothing less, in the middle of the Cold War, than a rain of missiles. that a rain of nuclear missiles should not fall on the world and turn it into a surface as welcoming as the moon.

In 1983, at the age of 34, this soldier was in charge of monitoring the Moscow satellite system. When on September 26 at midnight the alerts started to sound, indicating the launch of 5 missiles from the United States towards the USSR, military logic would have wanted him to launch the alert, and thus the immediate retaliation of the USSR - which meant, in short, a nuclear war. But that night, this man refused to sound the alarm. That night, Stanislas Petrov probably avoided nothing less than the third (and probably last) world war. Terrified, he quickly understood what was at stake and what it meant for the world. He took the time to reflect and to ask himself a question related to the number of missiles apparently launched: if the US really wanted to destroy the USSR, why did it launch only five missiles and not the whole arsenal? Having a doubt, he then had the idea of observing the ground radars, which did not confirm this firing. He decided to bet on a computer error, praying that he was right. The history will learn us later that the error of interpretation of the computers came indeed from the reflection of clouds that the technological tools of the time had "misunderstood".

That evening of September 26, 1983, our technology could have destroyed us.

On that evening of September 26, 1983, this man simply saved the world.

Luck was with us in 1983. To tell the truth, it was on a number of occasions. But luck always runs out in the end. We won't always have a Petrov to save us from doing the irreparable.

Without even mentioning armed conflict, we can see that nuclear conflict could arise from many causes: hacking into the defense systems of a nuclear country, human error, misinterpretation, for example, or the irresponsibility of a leader who, for obscure reasons, would be ready to do the unthinkable in order to become a martyr and drag all of humanity into his madness.

Without even mentioning armed conflict, we can see that nuclear conflict could arise from many causes: hacking into the defense systems of a nuclear country, human error, misinterpretation, for example, or the irresponsibility of a leader who, for obscure reasons, would be ready to do the unthinkable in order to become a martyr and drag all of humanity into his madness.

Caption: several other digital paintings in Hopes follow an unprecedented collaboration with the space community and several astronauts, depicting possible futures of our planet... seen from space. Here the question is posed of seeing one day an atomic bomb launched voluntarily or involuntarily on a large city, such as, in this case London. Without going as far as the use of the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear bomb ever created (by Russia), a traditional bomb would be enough to devastate any megalopolis. Mankind is definitely handling weapons. Mankind is definitely handling weapons that are far too dangerous and that must urgently be banned and destroyed.

In HOPES, General Bernard Norlain concluded his speech with these words which will also conclude this article. :

The hope of a better world where the most immediate threat of nuclear weapons is eliminated must inspire our action. We must free ourselves from nuclear fear. The future of humanity cannot rest on a bomb, even an atomic one. We cannot build a peaceful world if it remains based on threats of death and destruction. What we need is not more weapons, but more soul. It is often said that hope is life, so let's live on hope!

Bernard Norlain

Air Force General (2S)

Caption: In the great plains of North America, the peaceful calm of a vacation by the lake is brutally broken by the thud of nuclear missiles leaving their silos several miles away. While the carefree children were still playing, far from understanding the seriousness of what was happening, their parents understood at that moment that the world had just been turned upside down. This image is still a fiction. We are not condemned to live this scenario, and we still hold within us the cards to avoid the worst. There is still time to change our ways.

Yannick Monget


To know more about the book Hopes from which these different extracts and digital paintings are taken:

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